Thursday 27 July 2017

Threat of suicide rarely used as grounds for abortion, say medics

Fiach Kelly

THE masters of the country's leading maternity hospitals say it is extremely rare for the threat of suicide to be used as grounds for abortion.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, master of the Rotunda Hospital, says some 15pc of pregnant women presenting to hospital have mental health problems.

But he says it is "very rare" for the threat of suicide to be used as a reason for abortion.

He said UK figures show incidents of suicide during abortion is one for every 500,000 women.

Dr Coulter-Smith was speaking during the opening session of the Oireachtas Health Committee hearings on abortion, which are taking place in the Seanad today.

A number of Fine Gael TDs and senators have questioned if the threat of suicide should allowed as a grounds for abortion, and claim it could lead to a liberal abortion regime.

Dr Rhona Mahony, the master of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles St, Dublin, said she found the "judgemental and pejorative view that a woman will manipulate" to convince doctors they are suicidal "offensive".

She also said many women will risk their own lives to give birth.

"Women will risk their own lives to reproduce," she said.

Dr Mary McCaffrey from Kerry General Hospital said she and many of her colleagues in other regional hospitals had never come across a woman using suicide as a reason for abortion.

Dr Mahony also said abortion is still a criminal offence in Ireland.

"I need to know that I will not go to jail if I in good faith intervene to save a mother's life and terminate the pregnancy, and I want to know she will not go to jail."

Dr Mahony also said allowing the threat of suicide as a grounds for abortion will not open the "floodgates".

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